Jan. 28, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A progressive candidate running in the special election to fill the central Queens council seat that was vacated by Rory Lancman was attacked in a mailer sent to Queens residents last week.
Moumita Ahmed was the target of two pamphlets paid for by Common Sense NYC, a new independent expenditure committee that has taken a $1 million donation from billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross.
The mailers, which attack Ahmed’s progressive proposals, were sent out ahead of next Tuesday’s special election to fill the 24th Council District seat representing Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Pomonok, Jamaica Hills and Briarwood.
One of the pamphlets reads “Reckless Moumita Ahmed. No experience. Plenty of Bad Ideas.” and features images of Moumita hugging a Bernie Sanders doll and showing off a Bernie tattoo.
It displays past tweets of the activist, including one in which she called for a $4 billion cut to the NYPD budget and another in which she celebrated Amazon canceling its plans to set up a headquarters in Long Island City.
Common Sense NY paid $20,500 for the mailer to be sent to District 24 homes, according to the NYC Campaign Finance Board.
A second mailer funded by the group focuses solely on Ahmed’s proposal to cut the NYPD budget — calling it dangerous at a time when crime is rising.
Common Sense NY also spent $20,000 to send out a mailer supporting another District 24 candidate, James Gennaro, who previously held the D-24 Council seat for three terms until 2013.
“Jim Gennaro has the proven leadership we need during these challenging times,” it states.
Gennaro said he had no involvement with any of the ads. Furthermore, he said that independent expenditure committees are forbidden from coordinating with a specific candidate or campaign.
“Common Sense NY is an Independent Expenditure initiative that I had no role whatsoever in creating, have nothing to with, and I am legally prohibited from coordinating with or communicating with in any way,” he told the Queens Post.
Ahmed, nevertheless, put the blame on Gennaro for the ads — linking him to the committee.
Gennaro’s former chief-of-staff when he was in the council was Jeffrey Leb, she argued, and Leb is listed as the treasurer for Common Sense on the mailers.
In a statement to the Queens Post, Gennaro denied that Leb worked as his chief-of-staff.
“Mr. Leb never served as my chief of staff and left my employ in 2007,” Gennaro said.
However Leb’s LinkedIn profile states that he served as “Chief of Staff to Council Member James F. Gennaro” from July 2001 to January 2008. His campaign didn’t immediately respond to a question regarding the contradiction.
Ahmed took aim at Gennaro about the mailers on Twitter.
“Really @JimGennaro? Resorting to cowardly negative attacks against us by hiding behind your ex-chief-of-staff @JeffLeb?” Ahmed wrote on Twitter. “Your amateurish, childlike behavior is not what voters deserve during a pandemic and certainly isn’t going to help you given ranked-choice voting.”
Your amateurish, childlike behavior is not what voters deserve during a pandemic and certainly isn’t going to help you given ranked-choice voting. 1/ pic.twitter.com/qLyXJLceY7
— Moumita for City Council D24 (@disruptionary) January 21, 2021
Gennaro took to twitter to deny his involvement with the mailers — as first reported by City & State.
“Recently a piece of campaign literature was sent out by an Independent Expenditure that I have nothing to do with,” he tweeted. “I am running a positive campaign and I believe the debate should be on the issues and absent personal attacks against any of the candidates running for Council.”
However, Ahmed refused to back down.
“Councilman Gennaro – Please, you are not running a positive campaign,” she responded to his tweet. “Your billionaire, Trump-supporting real estate developer friends — led by your ex-chief-of-staff @JeffLeb — continue to fill mailboxes w/ negative personal attacks. Stop hiding behind your cowardly friends.”
Her campaign said Gennaro has failed to denounce the ads in a statement to the Queens Post.
“Jim Gennaro has had ample opportunity to publicly denounce his former righthand man Jeff Leb’s dirty tactics. But he has chosen to remain silent – and is therefore, complicit,” a campaign spokesperson said. “For example, if one of Moumita’s allies was mailing childish attack ads — during a pandemic — against Mr. Gennaro, she would publicly denounce them and demand they stop.”
Ahmed has been subject to a number of campaign attacks in the race. She was criticized last week over a tweet she posted in 2015 regarding Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.
Ahmed has earned several endorsements from several progressive leaders including Flushing Assembly Member Ron Kim, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Brooklyn State Sen. Julia Salazar, former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon as well as the Working Families Party.
She and Gennaro are two of eight candidates vying for the council seat.
Other candidates in the running include small business owner and community organizer Deepti Sharma; New York’s first Indian-American female Democratic District Leader Neeta Jain; attorney and President of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association Soma Syed; healthcare executive Dilip Nath, who previously ran for the seat; “conservative” Democrat Mujib Rahman and real estate broker Michael Earl Brown.
The winner of the nonpartisan special election will serve until the end of the year — to finish Lancman’s term that was set to end on Dec. 31, 2021. Lancman resigned from the City Council on Nov. 4 to take a position within Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
The special election is the first test of the city’s new ranked-choice voting ballot and early voting has already begun.